Teaching statistics MakerEd style: a day in the life of a University makerspace


Today in the Uni makerspace we held a MEGA-BUILD day. First year Zoology, Animal Behaviour, Wildlife Conservation, Biology and Forensic Anthropology students have been working on a variety of projects over these past few weeks to learn about statistics and so @ka81 and I thought we’d spend the day with them making.

Three groups were busy collecting their final bits of data for their stats assignment with their Rube Goldberg Machines. These are great fun (and easy) to build, and make learning about T-tests, Mann-Whitney U tests, Wilcoxon Signed Rank tests, Paired T-tests, Pearson and Spearman Rank Correlations and Linear Regression a lot more interesting than the list sounds 🙂 Only problem is getting the machines to work maybe 50-60 times on the trot. However, many, many resets, repairs with sticky tape, hot glue and rubber bands later… all the data were in!


On the bench alongside the Rubers were groups of students working on @arduino projects. Three have different camera trap projects they’re working on and so had teamed up for the day to try to play with triggers and to try to solve the problem of getting the Linksprite TTL cameras to download to SD. The triggers were fine. They were using PIR motion sensors and lasers trip-wires respectively…both simple enough to set up and code…but were having problems with the cameras. Still a puzzle and one they’re working on. The cameras take pix and dump them to SD but none  of the pix will open! Unrecognised file format we’re told…hmmmm. They’re therefore systematically working through things to try to figure out what’s going on. Nobody said #makered was straightforward lol (see Things We Have Learned – Part 1)… perplexing…


Meanwhile, along the bench from them, one of the girl teams were busy coding their Arduino Mega to dump data from 3 range-finder modules mounted on a spy-tank to SD card. All was going well until the Mega stopped reading the port! Plug in an Arduino Uno… fine. Plug the Mega back in…dead. Power off, then on… nothing. Disconnect the SD… nothing. Tried another laptop… nothing. We have had this happen before with Leonardos too… maybe something to do with the different chips these use compared to the fabulous workhorse that is the Uno?? I’m sure they’ll figure it out 🙂


Across from the girls another couple of students were working on their miniature sensor deployment project. They’re using Hexbugs to send sensors down burrows and pipes 🙂 Their first attempt (the NanoTurtle) comprised an Arduino Nano on a miniature breadboard. The aim was to also attach a bluetooth module and spool sensor data to their mobile phones. Got it working…sort of, using the pfodApp, but the connection keeps dropping after about 10 reading… something needs fixing with the handshake (add to the list)… so they’re about to play with RedBearLab’s Blend Micro (microprocessor and bluetooth combined) and an @adafruit trinket on a leash to the serial port as well 🙂 In the meantime though, today they decided to tow a TI sensor pack on a lego trolley using two Hexbugs. We call it ‘The Chariot’ lol… had me in stitches. It was so comical, but worked a treat!


The group beside them were putting the finishing touch to their Arduino breathalizer so that they could calibrate it against a police breathalizer and look at the effects on reaction time (using a reaction timer game they’ve built, also from an Arduino Uno) with different alcohol levels.


And outside the makerspace, in the stair well were the the helium blimp team who finally got full control over their blimp and were using it to film all the other groups 🙂 All in all, just another day in the makerspace…but oh what fun we had teaching and learning!



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